Caterpillar updates its Challenger lineup to boost toughness and reliability.

Louisville show goers got the first glimpse of Caterpillar's efforts to beef up the performance of its Challenger 35, 45 and 55 tractors, now manufactured in DeKalb, IL.

"We've taken everything we've learned over the past four years to take these tractors to a higher level of performance," says Dave Smith, senior marketing consultant for Caterpillar Ag Products.

The biggest changes are in the track undercarriage, hydraulics and hitch. The undercarriage hosts a new idler wheel, a drive wheel with an improved pattern, and increased track tension and adjustments to keep the track going straight with less slip in heavy gumbo soils.

Hydraulic flow has been increased to 43 gpm (from 31) at a maximum pressure of 2,900 psi (up from 2,750) to handle the increased hydraulic requirements of larger equipment.

Caterpillar redesigned the 3-pt. hitch and quick hitch. The 3-pt. is 4 in. closer to the tractor for improved machine balance and productivity (with 300 lbs. less weight needed out front). In fact, Cat changed these models to use the same front weight system as its E series tractors.

The standard and wide-swing drawbars have been made stronger and more durable, with 900 to 1,200 lbs. more vertical-load capacity.

In the cab, two more power outlets have been added for a total of five to power monitors and other electrical equipment. And alternator power has been boosted to handle this need.

The Challenger 55 engine features a lower compression ratio and in-creased cooling capacity, which produce higher torque rise and increased power reserve, according to Smith.

Contact Caterpillar Ag Products Inc., Dept. FIN, 1210 1 Barber-Greene Rd., DeKalb, IL 60115, 815/756-5600.